CHICAGO: The Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study team from Northwestern University hosted, “Loving Yourself,” a special event focused on emotional well-being and stress management for South Asian women here on a winter Saturday, February 11.
This event coincided with American Heart Month and focused on stress because stress is an important aspect of heart health. Participants wore something red as a symbol of love and strength.
Dr. Mudita Rastogi, Professor of Psychology, Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, delivered an interactive session on stress management in women. Dr. Rastogi actively engaged the attendees to participate in discussions on common stressors South Asian women experience.
The women at the event shared stories about how stress affects their lives and how difficult it can be for South Asians to acknowledge and cope with stress. Dr. Rastogi helped participants reflect on the importance of self-care. She encouraged them to remember their own needs even if there are multiple demands from work and. She asked them to think about, “What exactly am I feeling?”
The session also focused on simple strategies to cope with stress, such as being physically active, learning to meditate, getting enough sleep, connecting with friends and family, volunteering and taking time to do something that brings joy.
There was a good discussion about the importance of seeking professional help if needed. Women said it could be hard to get help because of cultural taboos around mental health and stress.Other women shared their own experiences with therapy and how it could help. The session concluded with a relaxing breathing exercise.
The MASALA study, which has 900 South Asian participants, has found that anxiety and depression are associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors. The goal of MASALA is to understand why South Asians have so much heart disease and diabetes and what we can do to prevent these diseases.
The study, led by Dr. Namratha Kandula at Northwestern University and Dr. Alka Kanaya at University of California San Francisco, has received over 11 million dollars in funding from the National Institutes of Health.
The success of the study is a result of the commitment of the study participants, who have been in the study since 2010. Very few studies have been done on South Asian health, and results from MASALA are being used to inform better health care for South Asians.
You can learn more about MASALA at www.masalastudy.org.